Chinese crawfish sold in Vietnam, import ban flouted

By Hong Chau   June 14, 2024 | 09:21 pm PT
Chinese crawfish sold in Vietnam, import ban flouted
Red swamp crawfish from China sold in Vietnam. Photo obtained by VnExpress
Live red swamp crawfish from China have been making their way into Vietnam in recent weeks despite being designated an invasive species whose import is banned.

The crustacean is sold at VND370,000 (US$14.54) per kilogram online, more than popular local items like black tiger shrimp and giant freshwater prawn.

Despite the high price, Hoang Anh of HCMC’s Tan Phu District bought two kilograms of the crawfish.

Though it has little flesh, it is exotic and pairs well with various types of sauces, he said.

Le Van Hanh, a crawfish wholesaler in HCMC’s District 1, said he imported the crawfish from suppliers in Quang Ninh Province’s Mong Cai City on the Chinese border.

Another wholesaler, Tam in Hanoi, said due to the capital’s proximity to Mong Cai, the imported products are always alive and fresh.

"This species of crawfish is very resilient and can survive all day on land without dying. When transported long distances, they stay alive for a whole week if there is enough oxygen."

Importer Pham Hung said the crawfish population often surges in May and July in China, and so does supply.

When asked if he knew import of the creature was banned, he claimed to be unaware but confident there is no risk since the crawfish is carefully packaged and mostly consumed and not released or used for breeding.

"I found this type of crustacean delicious and there is high demand for it."

Dr Tran Dinh Luan, director general of the Directorate of Fisheries, said the red swamp crawfish is an invasive species that disrupts ecosystems.

The omnivores adapt well to various habitats, potentially spreading pathogens and parasites.

Since 2013 its import has been prohibited and has been considered an alien species.

"The directorate does not issue permits for anyone to import [the crustacean] into Vietnam, and so the products being sold online are definitely smuggled."

The Department of Animal Health said businesses are not allowed to trade live red swamp crawfish.

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